A Feminist Cookbook Meant to Inspire Fuels Outrage Instead

A Feminist Cookbook Meant to Inspire Fuels Outrage Instead


The last thing Kathy Gunst and Katherine Alford expected when they published their cookbook “Rage Baking” was for the rage to be directed at them.

“We started hearing from a lot of women we didn’t know saying, ‘You stole, you plagiarized,’ ” Ms. Alford said. “We were quite caught off guard.”

The book — which is subtitled “The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women’s Voices” — was meant to celebrate anger and activism in the kitchen. While it may do that, it also ignited a conversation on social media about race, appropriation, feminism and marketing.

Shortly after “Rage Baking” was published on February 4, the Brooklyn performance artist Tangerine Jones wrote a pointed post on Medium, taking Ms. Gunst and Ms. Alford to task. In 2015, Ms. Jones had started a blog and Instagram account that she called Rage Baking — but she wasn’t included in the book, or credited in any way.

In an interview on Friday, Ms. Jones said: “This exploitation keeps happening. No one should be surprised that people feel completely OK not even pretending to be respectful co-opting things from black folks.”

In her Medium post, she had shared screenshots of messages sent to her by Ms. Gunst and Ms. Alford, in which the authors explained, “We have seen a range of people using ‘rage bake’ and ‘rage baking’ independently to describe their efforts for the past several years.”

“If all of this research around Rage Baking had been done prior to the book’s publication and the intention was to be a celebration of feminist women’s voices, why wasn’t I acknowledged for my efforts or contacted?” Ms. Jones wrote.

She added, “Why did they choose Rage Baking as the title of the book when it was clear Rage Baking was taken on all social media and I’d been the top hit for Rage Baking for years?”

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Credit…Patricia Wall/The New York Times

Ms. Gunst, who has written more than a dozen cookbooks, said in an interview, “I was aware of the hashtag rage baking. I was aware of the hashtag ‘rage baker,’ ‘feminist baker’ — there are quite a few women on social media who are bakers and activists. I was absolutely aware of her.”

So why was Ms. Jones excluded?

Ms. Gunst and Ms. Alford, who is a former executive at the Food Network, said they reached out to prominent personalities such as Betty Fussell, Vallery Lomas, Carla Hall and Julia Turshen. In part because Ms. Jones wasn’t well known in the food-media realm, she was not approached.

“I don’t see how they’re breaking barriers and uplifting women’s voices,” Ms. Jones said on Friday. “If they’re celebrating this larger cultural movement, why not celebrate the people who are doing the work? Why is it all people who have platforms, and who are established, and not a mix?”

Rebecca Traister, a journalist who contributed an excerpt from her book “Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger,” said she found Ms. Jones’s case persuasive.

“That the authors were aware of her work but did not acknowledge it, or seek to work with her, obviously made me angry,” said Ms. Traister, who has asked the authors to remove her essay from future editions of the book.

Preeti Mistry, a chef who contributed a recipe to the book, said the issue is not whether or not Ms. Jones invented the term. (Ms. Jones is the first to note that it was used by bakers before her.)

“That’s totally not the point,” said Ms. Mistry. “There’s a larger issue of women of color, but specifically black women in America, being undervalued and overshadowed by white women who take up the brilliant things that black women create and get to profit or get famous from it.”

When Ms. Alford and Ms. Gunst first approached the writer Osayi Endolyn to contribute to “Rage Baking,” Ms. Endolyn wasn’t so sure. But when she saw that writers she admired had signed on to the project — including the prominent black author and teacher Jessica B. Harris — she reconsidered.

Ms. Endolyn, who wrote an essay about her mother and grandmother’s letter-writing, knew that the conversation over appropriation was crucial, but also worried that it obscured the work of women of color who had in fact been essential to the cookbook, including the book’s photographer, Jerrelle Guy.

Ms. Endolyn hoped Ms. Jones would be given credit and a bigger platform, but didn’t think the concept of rage baking should belong to anyone.

“You can’t steal something from someone if they don’t own it,” she said. “I’m happy to have my work continue to be part of the book.”

The first print run of “Rage Baking” was about 10,000 copies, and the authors hope to update the next edition with a contribution from Ms. Jones — if she’s interested.

“Do we wish we’d come to this earlier? Yes, of course,” said Ms. Gunst.





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